Looking at the proportion of people still working a “normal” 35-44 hour week, for men there was a negligible reduction. From April 2019 to April 2020 the change was from 39.5 per cent to 38.1 per cent and only a slightly bigger one for women (31.2 per cent to 29.2).
Interestingly those working even longer hours saw even smaller reductions in hours worked. For those working fewer hours, it was the women that have seen the biggest drops, about two to three times as great a reduction than the men.
What this means is that, in the first month of the lockdown at least, those working in part-time roles, and in particular women in those roles, were disproportionately affected.
For this reason, it is concerning to hear the government announcing a break with previously announced policy and a sudden termination of childcare subsidies and JobKeeper allowances for childcare workers. Given this recession has been dubbed the pink recession due to the disproportional impact this has had on women workers, this latest announcement risks exacerbating this inequality.
It is not at all clear whether people will have the funds to meet childcare costs at this time and the result may be women disproportionately remaining at home to care for their children. This risks flow-on effects into other industries that rely disproportionately on female clientele.
It is ironic that just as we are allowed back into gyms, studios and boot camps, the women who, according to Fitness Australia (2015 report) and reportedly the ABS, make up the majority of customers, may be the least able to take advantage. In turn, the livelihoods of many in the fitness industry that have been slammed by this recession could be further in peril.
This is but one example of the difficulties many are going to face, and the government is facing in winding back its subsidy program. The labour market is complex and inter-dependent. Removing subsidies prematurely, suddenly and in only selected parts of the economy risks unexpected problems and in unexpected areas.
Of course these “problems” for the individuals concerned may be experienced more like catastrophes. Reopening the economy may be even more painful than shutting it down. The June ABS figures, due out after deadline but before publication of this article, will be eagerly awaited.
Jim Bright, FAPS is Professor of Career Education and Development at ACU and owns Bright and Associates, a Career Management Consultancy. Email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DrJimBright